Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) working on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic will be able to apply for a share of a new £1.5 million emergency fund to help them respond to the COVID-19-related needs of disabled people.
Funding will be distributed to grassroots DPOs across the UK to try to ensure disabled people are “less isolated, more independent and their voices are heard and reflected in recovery strategies”.
The new funding recognises the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on disabled people, with research showing cuts to support, and problems accessing food, medicine and information, as well as the significant ongoing impact on many disabled people’s mental health caused by increase levels of isolation.
It is likely to help with issues around isolation; independent living – including transport, the built environment, health, social care and employment – and income, benefits and debt.
Possible projects that could secure funding include those aimed at making COVID-related information more accessible; improving advice and information services on COVID-related issues; and setting up peer support services to combat loneliness caused by the isolation of shielding from the virus.
The DPO funding – between £1,000 and £25,000 for each project – will only be available to those organisations run and controlled by disabled people, with applications open to any DPO in the UK.
The £1.5 million funding has been awarded to a consortium of regional and national DPOs by the National Emergencies Trust (NET), which works with charities and other bodies to raise and distribute money and support victims during domestic disasters or emergencies.
NET’s analysis has shown that disabled people have been “underserved” through grants and other funding so far, despite being hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.
The two national partners for England are Inclusion London and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), which have chosen regional DPOs – Spectrum Centre for Independent Living in the south-east, The West of England Centre for Inclusive Living, Equality Together in Bradford, Disability Sheffield, Equal Lives in the east of England, Birmingham’s Disability Resource Centre, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, and Inclusion London in the capital – to allocate funding to local DPOs in their areas.
These larger DPOs will encourage the local DPOs to apply for funding, support them with their applications, monitor how funding is spent, and evaluate the success of projects.
Mark Harrison, from ROFA, said the funding would go “where it’s needed most”.
He said: “It is a short, sharp programme that will make a difference on COVID-related issues for disabled people.
“It is very important because disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and this funding for grassroots DPOs who are closest to the front line will make a huge difference.”
Andrea Brown, DANI’s chief executive, said: “What has become clear, from Disability Action’s COVID-19 survey, is the feeling of many disabled people that their voices are being lost in the noise or worse, simple ignored, in the confusion that is unfolding from COVID-19.
“The opportunity of this consortium to come together to provide direct support to grassroots DPOs across the UK, to ensure they are strengthened and sustained to provide vital advice and support, will enable local action for local needs.”
Further NET funding is being distributed to LGBT+ organisations through the LGBT+ Consortium umbrella body, while millions of pounds more will be distributed to other at-risk groups.
Since March, NET’s Coronavirus Appeal has raised more than £80 million and funds it has distributed have enabled more than 8,000 grassroots groups to meet urgent needs on the ground, including access to food and bereavement counselling.
Gerald Oppenheim, NET’s deputy chair, said: “By providing specialist support for certain needs and at-risk groups, our new partners will help the thousands of at risk people who find it harder to access help and who have been more difficult for us to reach so far.”
The application process for DPOs will last from early September to 5 October, with funding distributed by the end of October for projects that must be completed by the end of June. The fund will open for applications early next month. For more information, email [email protected]
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